Friday, 19 February 2016

Improving access through ArchivesSpace...

Catalogue Conversion Assistant Paul has come to the end of his time with LHSA. In this week's blog, he discusses how he's been updating LHSA catalogues:

For my final blog at LHSA I thought that it would be a good idea to talk about what I have achieved during my four months working here as a Catalogue Conversion Assistant.

The challenge was to transfer existing LHSA finding aids from Microsoft Word format into the University’s archive management system ArchivesSpace, to improve access to the collections for LHSA users.

As this had never been attempted on such a scale before, there was no guide or system in place to know how long this process would take, or the best way to go about it. However, once I started to work my way through the first catalogue I developed new techniques and more efficient ways of doing things. This in turn increased the pace I could work at, whilst still ensuring that I was highly accurate and meticulous in my approach (there really wasn’t any room for mistakes).

I have now managed to work my way through five catalogues: Royal Edinburgh Hospital (LHB7); Rosslynlee Hospital (LHB33); Bangour Village Hospital (LHB44); Royal Victoria and Associated Hospitals (LHB10); and Royal Victoria Dispensary, Hospital and Tuberculosis Trust (LHB41). Put together these total 343 pages converted from Word format into ArchivesSpace.

By far the most epic, and challenging, catalogue I converted into ArchivesSpace was that of the the Royal Edinburgh Hospital (REH), LHB7. Not only is it the first catalogue I worked on, at 254 pages long it was most definitely the largest. After its completion, I had entered a total of 3269 individual descriptions and created 124 index terms which will be used to link LHSA collections, and material, together. Additionally, these can also be used to link records with others held at the University in order to provide a much richer online experience for our users.One series of records which stands out above all others from my time converting the REH catalogue has to be files containing the Certification Papers. At almost 1,300 individual entries, this was a real test of endurance. However, the sense of achievement I felt after its completion was highly rewarding - although my index finger was involuntary twitching for days after.

Boxes of REH certification papers (LHB7/52) in the stores
Another highlight from my time at LHSA has to be getting the opportunity to pass on my knowledge and experience of ArchivesSpace and the catalogue conversion process to other members of the team, both old and new. I have compiled a beginner’s guide to the process, which should hopefully make the experience a little less daunting to those who come after me.

Although I am sad to be leaving LHSA, I feel extremely privileged to have played a small role in improving online access to the wonderful collections held there. I would like to thank everyone at LHSA and the CRC for making me feel so welcome, and for all the help and advice.  It truly is an amazing place to work and I still can’t quite get over the fact that I have had the opportunity to do so.

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